Thursday, May 19, 2011

How I Made a Cable Operated Bird Puppet

or How to make a Cable Puppet.

I have made a few puppets in the past, but I have always been fascinated with puppets too small for a hand to fit inside them.  There are different types of puppets like that.

Rod Puppet: It is basically a puppet on a stick.  The head turns side to side, and the mouth moves.  I have a mouse puppet in progress.  Maybe I will take some pictures and post them here.

Remote Control Puppet:  These are little robots that are controlled by a remote control.  Think of a remote controlled car. These are a little out of my league right now.  One day when I understand how remote controls work I will try this one out.

Cable Controlled Puppet: A puppet controlled by using a cable.  These puppets have the ability to look up, down, left and right.  They can also move their mouth.  I am not going to make his mouth move this time, I just want to work on getting the cable control to work.

I went to Walmart and got a bike brake cable repair kit.  Which consists of four cables and jackets.  Two long and two short.  I noticed that the diameter of the cables are different.  So you have 4 different cables. (One small diameter long, one small diameter short, one large diameter long, and one large diameter short. Did you get all of that or do I need to type slower?)

I also got a few tennis balls.  I found these in the pet department.  They were about $1 for two of the big ones, and $1 for 3 of the small ones. The large one is going to be the body and the small one the head.

First I stacked the smaller tennis ball on top of the large one and marked where they met.  Then on the body I marked where the cable would come out.  I used a drywall screw to make the two holes in the larger ball and one in the smaller one.

I then realized that i wouldn't be able to secure the one in the head without getting into it, so I cut out a section so I could reach the inside.

I put the cable up to my shoulder (where the bird is going to sit) and measured the cables. The little ones were too short, so I got one of the longer ones.  It was a little too long so I decided to cut it.

TIP:  If you are going to do this, learn from my mistakes.  I tried to cut the cable jacket without taking the cable out first.  I ended up nicking the cable and almost messing it up.  There are two ends on the cable (to keep them inside the jacket.) Cut one of them off then pull the cable out of the jacket before cutting it.  This makes it a lot easer to cut the jacket with a pair of wire cutters.

Then I pushed a section of cut jacket through the body.  I had a hard time trying to get the two ends of the jacket to line up,without spinning around. So I pulled this out and pushed the main cable jacket through the holes.



  1. Nice work Jeff. Thanks so much for sharing, it's really hard to find a good instructional tutorial on how to make cable puppets like this! I'll be keen to have a go myself after reading this

    Thanks very much!

    1. Hi Jeff,
      I wanted to thank you and share my excitement!
      Here is my first ever cable puppet (even used recycled cable from the bike repair store :P)

    2. Wow great job! I love the Griffin! You must have really taken some time on the head and feet. I am glad I could be of help.

  2. How did you get the bird to sit so nicely on your shoulder? Did you secure the puppet to your shirt with some sort of clip? thanks!

    1. Actually in that pic/video he is just resting there. The tennis ball had enough weight to keep him there for that short time. I want to make him some claws, probably out of a thick floral wire, then cover it with fleece or foam. So I can pose them to actually grab hold of my shoulder.

  3. Thank you so much for this great tutorial, i cant wait to see how to complete the wings in the 3rd part. I defiantly have plans to make a puppet of my own in the near future